Monday, February 13, 2012

Race to the Top

There are not many people that aren’t well aware of the educational problems in the United States. Education is one of the few things that affect almost everyone in some shape or form. A popular and well know reform of 2001 is known as No Child Left Behind. This was former president, George W. Bush’s, attempt to reform the way public schools educate. The United States has gone through eleven years of attempting to bring No Child Left Behind in to all school to educate children better with standardized testing and higher standard but has failed to meet the success that was expected in schools. “They [teachers] devote more time to preparing students for the state tests in basic skill, which will determine the life or death of their schools” (Ravitch). Results of standardized testing and a teacher’s ability to teach are now forced to have correlation between one another. This sets the preface for a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ teacher. During the presidential election, Barack Obama promised those who supported him that there would be a “major shift in educational policies” (Apple 24); in other words a better solution to No Child Left Behind. Obama’s solution is Race to the Top. Below Obama talks about his plan to "challenge schools to 'Race to the Top.'" 

Race to the Top is yet another attempt to reform K-12 schools. There is $4.35 billion of federal cash going into this reform. According to The Wall Street Journal, “The Obama Administration claims will reward only those states that raise their academic standards, improve teacher quality and expand the reach of charter schools.” Initially this pitch sounds like the ultimate solution to the destruction of education. Unfortunately there seems to be many people that are discouraged since the opening pitch of Race to the Top. Like I said before, from the No Child Left Behind reform, results of standardized and state tests must be correlated with the quality of a teacher. Well Race to the Top had brought that to a whole new level. “Reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality. It asserts that teachers aloe are wholly responsible for whether test scores go up or down” (Ravitch). This is now neglecting all other factors that come along with test scores. Some factors, for example, student ability, parent involvement and economical status; that’s just naming a few factors that also have affect on these scores. Putting all this stress on the scores hinders a teachers ability to do what they originally aspired to do. I have aspired to be a teacher since a young age and now that I am going to school and majoring in education. Race to the Top affects the classroom atmosphere drastically.

Queen of the Day's host Jack Bailey
What is perceived is not always what is really apparent. James Arnold explored this phenomenon in the his article in the The Washington Post. He compared Obama's reform to this old radio/television show called "Queen of the Day." This was a game show where the contestants of the show would tell the audience and host, Jack Bailey,  their pitiful life story. Mostly consisting of their hard luck, poverty, and physical aliments. There were also a series of questions Jack would ask to practically bring tears to the audience eyes. The "applause meter" would determined the winner or in other words the "Queen of the Day." The winners got a prize package that was perceived to change the life of these sad souls. When quiet frankly this is only the impression that is left on the audience and not what really happens. The winners have their moment of fame then the next day they become the Queen of yesterday. This is much like Race to the Top. Race to the Top is said to be the solution but the federal cash that the schools receive is purely based on the testing scores. So when the test scores are up they receive money and award to commend them and when the scores are down that school becomes yesterdays news. James Arnold is suggesting that Race to the Top and "Queen of the Day" are alike in this way. ""Queen for a Day" was never meant to alleviate poverty or the desperate conditions of the contestants, just as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers are not meant to improve student achievement.  Both are extensions of corporate intrusion and self interest."

My biggest worry about this reform is that it is once again not going to be as successful as it should be. The plan is that those schools that cannot get their standards up won't receive funding further letting  them slowly die out. What does this sounds like? Survival of the fittest; only the strong with survive. This is not the way we should approach our educational crisis. We should help those we are struggling, not just sit back and watch.

Pennlive had an opinionated article called "Race to the Top: Hopefully, state learns lesson from last defeat." Pennsylvania is one of the many states the failed to win the federal grant. This is because they had problems getting on of the districts in the state on board with Race to the Top. Only 122 of the 500 school districts accepted the reform. Pennsylvania is behind other states in the desire to innovate and create more efficient schools. To have change, there must be desire or want to change. As for Pennsylvania's, they are having a battle within the state for those who oppose Race to the Top and who support it. This could possibly mean those who oppose it are going to "die out" or shut down.

“Obama rightly asserted that we must encourage innovation, imagination, and creativity so we can ‘win the future.’” Innovation, imagination, and creativity are all things everyone hopes for the youth to aim for. We commend those who do and frown upon those who do not. Standardized tests do not present these great attributes. Instead, “drilling children on how to take test discourages innovation and creativity, punishes divergent thinking, and prioritizes skills over knowledge. And the endless house devoted to test preparation certainly deaden students’ interest in school” (Ravitch). This presents a big problem in the education system. A problem that reforms like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are neglecting. These reforms are hindering the education of the youth by shying away from a deeper knowledge and focusing on simply scores. We now base knowledge off of a number. And we are putting so much emphasis on this number that students worry more about the number being placed on them instead of the knowledge attempting to be gained.

Throughout my research, Diane Ravitch seemed to be a common name to be brought up. She is a very well respected Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. In addition, she is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., this is according to her website. Her best selling book is titled The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She wrote “Obama’s War On Schools” in Newsweek and also has an impressive track record of everything there is to know about educational reform. She has many books publish with her thoughts on the educational system. In an interview with Christine Romans, she share her thoughts on Race to the Top.

Image from Education Clearing House
She believes that “testing and choice are undermining education.” Going back on when I talked about how we are basing the quality of out teachers off the results of these testing scores, Ravitch speaks of this in her interview. She says that this is completely wrong that the teachers aren’t the ones taking the test and the grades are strictly based on what the student knows. “Education is not a race, its not about winners and losers. It’s about finding giving every child the opportunity to succeed.” The comic i found left, pokes humor at the this statement that education is not a race.  Diane Ravitch has an interesting standpoint because of her experience and travels. She brings up the rankings of the education system of the United States in comparison to Finland’s ranking which are much higher.

Michael Apple is a Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies. He wrote Grading Obama’s Educational Policy. He believes there is a lot that the United States could learn from our surrounding nations to better our education system. For example, Finland again ranks highest in the grading educational ratings. Why is this? What are they doing different? We are attempting to ‘Race to the Top’ but neglecting to see how those above us in rankings earned their rankings.

The Finnish school system is bases off of four terms: quality, efficiency, equality and internationalization. Their teachers come with the highest qualifications and must obtain a Master’s degree before entering the work field. They have a competitive application acceptance because teaching is one of the many popular professions. Their teachers are very competent to say the least. “Student assessment and learning outcomes are encouraging and supportive by nature.” Standardize and national testing does not exist. The BBC News traveled to Helsinki, Finland to explore their success and see how their schools work.

The fact that the Finnish education system is so highly ranked tells us that they have something right. They have found the equation to the problem that we have been trying to solve with our educational reforms. Michael Apple says “we have much to learn from other nations,” (Apple 27). The United States doesn’t need to completely convert to the way that the Finnish teach but we could somewhat mimic the way they build their system to improve our own.

We obviously cannot completely recreate our educational system to match theirs, that would take much time and effort and would also be close to impossible. Our societies are different in many ways, especially in the way we raise children. What we can do is change the little things that aren't working with the United State's educational system and use the Finnish educational system to fix the problems. We could take the parts that will work along with what we have already built.

Work Cited 

Apple, Michael W. “Grading Obama’s Education Policy.” Progressive 75. (2011): 24-27. Academic  Search Complete. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. 

Ravitch, Diane. “Obama’s War On Schools.” Newsweek 147.13/14 (2011): 20-21. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.

1 comment:

  1. 1.) Does your partner's essay identify a problem and offer a possible solution to the problem? What is the problem? What is the solution offered? If you are having trouble understanding the problem or solution, how might your partner clarify their position?

    Yes she identifies that the United States education system is the problem. She doesn't really say a solution, except maybe making our school system more like the finnish school system.

    2.) Does the argument identify different angles of vision and explain why they are important to the audience? Which ones are the most interesting? Are their any angles that you feel might help their argument?

    Yes she shows angles of vision from different teaching experts.

    3.) Does your partner identify their own angle of vision, or a persona that they advocate from? Is there anything your partner could do to help clarify their angle of vision?

    Yes her angle of vision is one that points out the flaws in the current school systems.

    4.) Does the essay employ rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos, kairos) in a way that you feel is appropriate for the argument? Is there any advice you have to offer of ways to improve the rhetorical appeal of their argument?

    Yes she uses ethos by quoting different teaching experts. She could use more of the other rhetorical appeals.

    5.) Does the essay use multiple modes (video, images, audio, text), and do they help frame or support the argument? If so, how so? If not, how might your partner resolve this for you as a reader?

    No, there aren't any modes besides text.

    6.) Does your partner's essay use hyperlinks as citations, and do they work correctly?

    Yes she uses hyperlinks as citations and they do work correctly.

    Please use direct quotes to help support your analysis where applicable.
    For example:
    "4.) You do a great job using pathos appeal when you say, “Whenever you eat Fettuccine Alfredo, you ingest the same amount of cholesterol as a stick of butter.” This made me feel sick to my stomach at the thought of eating this dish, and it is normally one of my favorites! Where did this information come from? Maybe you can build your ethos a bit if you identify the source of this information. Is it from a journal? Or are there a few websites quoting an authority on this?"